NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With the start of the school year fast approaching, the safety of students and teachers has taken center stage in New York.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio stood firm in saying that unlike last year, there will be no remote learning options for students.
Come Sept. 13, everyone is due back for in-person learning. Officials pointed out recent studies pre-vaccine that show it is the safest place for children.
"What we found is that students and teachers in remote learning had the same risk of contracting COVID, if not a higher risk, than students and teachers that were in our schools," said Dr. Ted Long with NYC Health + Hospitals.
As for vaccinations in New York City, de Blasio says they will continue to encourage, but not mandate.
One reason is because 56% of 12 to 17-year-olds have already gotten their first shot.
A new approach to getting those numbers up is the Parent Teacher Association. If a PTA member recruits folks, everyone involved will get $100, which is part of the incentive program already in place.
But for the crucial 5 to 11-year-olds, who are still not eligible, city health officials say it is vital to allow studies underway focusing on vaccines for that group to proceed.
"Pfizer is likely to be the first submit to the FDA for 5 to 11-year-olds, and that is likely to happen sometime in September," said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.
New York State is not expected to mandate that students get vaccinated, but they will have to wear a mask no matter what district they are in.
Incoming Governor Kathy Hochul is calling for a statewide mask mandate in schools.
That's already in place in New York City and the same is in effect in Connecticut through at least the month of September.
During his first COVID briefing since May, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that all state workers, some 50,000 employees, must show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing.
Meantime, New York City says it's ready to start providing booster shots with 750,000 vaccines doses on hand right now - and they can order more.
One of those vaccine sites is the Brooklyn Army Terminal.
Boosters making headlines after President Biden announced Wednesday that third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as recommended by the CDC, will be available starting September 20.
The booster is recommended eight months after your first round of shots, after data showed protection from mild cases of COVID starts to wane.
But experts say even without a booster shot you are protected against the worst outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
Regarding masks in school in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would leave it up to local districts to make their own rules, saying he didn't have the authority after the legislature stripped him of his emergency COVID powers.
But Hochul disagrees.
"Mask mandates is something that the Department of Health has the authority to call for," Hochul said. "They have that authority now. I will assess whether that is called for. But I believe we will need mask mandates for children to go back to schools. And that will have to be universal. It will be statewide."
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